Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Will San Jose Get an A('s) for Effort?

This week, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved the sale of two downtown parcels to The Sobrato Organization. This is significant because it not only puts the development of two prime downtown locations into motion, but proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase the remaining parcels for a proposed MLB stadium near Diridon Station.

285 South Market Street

The Sobrato Organization has purchased what is arguably downtown's most desirable remaining parcel, 285 South Market Street. Next to The Fairmont Hotel and across from Plaza de César Chávez, any future development on this site will enjoy a key downtown location with easy access to The Tech, The San Jose Musem of Art, SoFA, San Jose State, The McEnery Convention Center, and The Civic Auditorium.

Urban West Associates' proposed Cityfront Square as viewed from First Street

If all had gone according to plan, this parcel would have been the site of a three-tower, mixed-use development called Cityfront Square. Developed by Urban West Associates, the project got marred in a dispute over downtown height limits and eventually fell victim to the bad economy.

Sobrato's purchase opens up a new possibility of an exciting mixed-use project. If done correctly, the site could become a downtown destination. The three items at the top of my wish list for this site: retail, retail, and retail. Dare I wish for an actual ... downtown department store?

8 East San Fernando Street

Currently a parking lot, 8 East San Fernando Street is another high-profile downtown parcel. Adjacent to The 88, the lot was originally slated to be the site of Living Tomorrow's Silicon Valley pavilion, its first in the United States. But even before the current financial crisis, Living Tomorrow was unable to secure funding, so the project was scraped in 2007.

Living Tomorrow's proposed tower, which was to include a hotel, at 8 East San Fernando Street

Even with this site undeveloped, East San Fernando, particularly between San Jose State and Market, has seen a huge increase in foot traffic in recent months, largely due to the opening of The 88. That Sobrato will oversee the property's development bears well for that street. Another excellent opportunity for ground-level retail, wouldn't you say?

The San Jose Redevelopment Agency's render of a downtown stadium for the A's

Which brings us to the purchase of the remaining parcels surrounding Diridon Station. You have to give San Jose credit for keeping its eye on the prize with this stadium. Even when the Fremont deal seemed like a sure thing, San Jose diligently pursued its acquisition of land for a stadium—everyone thought would never happen. With the Fremont deal collapsed (and back to square one), San Jose is literally years ahead of Oakland in its pursuit of a stadium, and the leading contender for the new home of the A's. By the way, you can read more about a potential A's move to San Jose at Baseball San Jose's blog (for which I also write).

All in all, it's been an exciting and significant week of developments in the city.